Comes the Millennium
In New York City, the Rainbow Room atop Rockefeller Center is already booked solid for the night of December 31, 1999. In England, Her Majesty’s Government has appointed a “Millennium Commission,” one of whose members has endorsed a project to build a gigantic Ferris wheel looming 200 feet above Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament. The editors of the Washington Post’s “Sunday Style” section have declared Genghis Khan the “man of the millennium.” And, mutatis very much mutandis, Pope John Paul II has issued an apostolic letter, “The Coming Third Millennium,” asking the Catholic Church to prepare itself for a new “springtime” of missionary activity.
It cannot be said that John Paul’s letter has energized his own Church, much less the general culture. For whatever reasons—and, in the West, those reasons may well include a sense of exhaustion—the image of the “millennium year” has yet to seize the public imagination in a powerful way. But the intellectuals are stirring. One of them is Conor Cruise O’Brien, the Irish statesman and writer whose long and variegated career has taken him into the turbulent worlds of national politics (as a cabinet officer and a Labor member of the Irish Dail), international politics (as a special assistant to UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld), and journalism (as editor-in-chief of the London Observer and current contributing editor to the Atlantic Monthly).
About the Author
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C. and the author most recently of God’s Choice: Pope Benedict XVI and the Future of the Catholic Church (HarperCollins).